Thursday, October 24, 2019

Halloween Cereals 2019

As is usually the case with Halloween, Christmas, Summertime, etc. all the big corporations find different ways to ingratiate themselves into your grocery list by offering strange seasonal fare you would otherwise never consider purchasing.

You see this sort of thing with all sorts of brands: everything from tea and coffee to snack foods and soda and even kitty litter! Now, I'm definitely a mark for this sort of thing in general, but one product that I seem to key in on is cereal.

I mean it's not hard. I love cereal! I don't eat it every day, but if I see something new and different I can't help it but buy a box.

Usually, you can expect to see some Autumn or Halloween themed cereals on offer at this time of year, but I must say that there wasn't much to be had. Gone are the days that every cereal company kicked out some pumpkin spice variant or kids' cereals spookied up their usual best-sellers.

After weeks of waiting and nearly giving up all hope, I walked into a grocery store the other day and found that they suddenly had a display of three General Mills seasonal cereals! I scored a box of each and the following are my thoughts on them.

Pumpkin Spice Cheerios

This is the biggest surprise for me, personally, and although I was more looking forward to the other cereals on this list I had to try these first.

Now, these certainly aren't new: they've been on the market since at least 2016. I'm fairly certain I've seen them on Canadian shelves in the past, but I've always passed them over. I don't know what it is, but Cheerios have been cranking out new flavours left and right the lately and they're almost always sub-par. Honey Nut and Apple Cinnamon Cheerios are on high-rotation in my house, so its hard to pass up those for something different or limited.

This time around, however, the box completely caught my eye. It wasn't like the old orange box I remembered, and honestly it sold me on at least trying the cereal this time around.

On opening the box I was immediately smacked in the face with the smell of - wait for it - pumpkin! This may seem like a dumb thing to point out, but if we're being honest with ourselves how often does "pumpkin spice anything" ever actually taste like pumpkin? Can you even tell me what pumpkin spice tastes like?

No, you can't!

It's a melange of spices that any company can tweak and change at their will. It usually involves cinnamon and nutmeg, but I can honestly say that I've never had anything that actually included freakin' pumpkin in the mix!

Pumpkin Spice Cheerios actually tote this fact right on the box, stating that it is made with real pumpkin purée mixed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. A pumpkin spice recipe that's actually in writing! It's a nice touch and it pays off.

I'll admit that one of the reasons I wanted to try Pumpkin Spice Cheerios first was because I assumed I wouldn't actually like them. As I said before, these new flavours of Cheerios rarely land. Pumpkin Spice, though, just have a hint of pumpkin flavour and a dash of spices. There's nothing crazy going on here, which is nice. It almost tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios that had a light dusting and definitely seems light on the sugar. There's actually less of the sweet stuff in this box than Honey Nut or Apple Cinnamon.

I've had two bowls to date as I write this and its actually even grown on me, so I think I would give this a recommend, provided your into pumpkin spice and you're not a total Halloween Grinch!

Count Chocula

The Monster Cereals from General Mills have been around since the 70s and were on any grocery shelf in the US up until 2010. There have been several different kinds, but the flagships have always been Count Chocula and Franken Berry. Boo Berry has become one of the strongest in the line up, with Fruit Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy being offered only occasionally since the late-80s, early-90s.

In 2010, General Mills started offering the cereals only seasonally. The staples are Chocula and Franken and Boo Berry, but in 2013 and 2014 all five were actually released.

Now what about up here in the wilds of Canadia?

It wasn't until 2014 that General Mills - after seeing the greymarket created by people near the border driving and selling boxes of their goods here in Canada - decided to bring the cereal to our great country. For whatever reason instead of going for the three main cereals, same as in the US, the only two on offer here were Count Chocula and Boo Berry.

I wasn't completely broken-hearted by this decision, but I was definitely unhappy with it, as well. More to come on that.

The truth is I'm not a big fruit-flavoured cereal guy and I never have been. I think Fruity Pebbles was the only one that I went for with any regularity as a kid. Now, chocolate cereals? You've got my attention! So, easily my favourite of the two since I first started buying them again in the mid-10s (we can say that now, right?) has been Count Chocula.

I've heard the controversy that they've changed the cereals and they're very unlike their original versions, but I never - and I mean never - had these as a kid.

I feel certain that they were available in Canada, but either my parents wouldn't buy them for me or they just weren't available in my neck-of-the-woods. I know that I always wanted to try them and my parents weren't known to be completely against sugary cereals, so I have to assume it was a limited availability issue.

As a result, I love Count Chocula! I get my requisite box each Halloween, share it with the fam, and have a few bowls of that chocolaty goodness. If the texture or flavour of the cereal and marshmallows doesn't stack up the original I am blissfully unaware! I really enjoy them and that chocolate milk created by the cereal is deee-vine!

Franken Berry

And here we are! I've been searching different grocery sites off-and-on over the past few weeks and I've found ghost-listings for Count Chocula and Boo Berry, so I figured things would continue status quo this season, but suddenly a few weeks ago I found a listing for Franken Berry instead of his ghostly compatriot! I was absolutely in shock as this is one of the few "bucket list" items that I wanted to experience from my youth!

As I mentioned, as a kid I could never find these cereals, but being a child of Saturday morning cartoons I was bombarded with commercials for them as I watched channels like ABC or CBS.

I grew up loving the Universal Monsters and seeing these cereals immediately created that connection in my mind, which was literally explored by General Mills and Universal in 1987. My favourite of the monsters has always been Frankenstein's creature, so of course Franken Berry was the cereal I wanted the most.

Alas, it was not to be.

I have to assume these cereals were available in Canada, but that didn't mean they were all over the country. In fact, a lot of times that would mean they were only really widely available in Ontario and West. Here in Atlantic Canada, whether it was due to population or transportation, we often got slighted by different brands. Growing up on an island certainly didn't help matters!

I can remember many times scouring the cereal aisle looking for Franken Berry or any of the Monster Cereals, but never in my lifetime did I get to try this most coveted of cereals... until now!

As I said before, fruit cereals aren't really my jam... and unfortunately that statement remains true with Franken Berry. I didn't dislike it as much as others I've had, but I certainly can't say that this one trumps Count Chocula for me. I'm still floored that I actually got to have it, though! One thing I would say is that it tasted an aaaaawful lot like Fruity Lucky Charms to me, which I picked up as a promotion this summer. I'd almost like to do a side-by-side comparison to see if there's any funny business going on here.

The story doesn't end there, though!

I'm not going to act like I'm the first person to do this - I know I can't possibly be - but as I was sitting and having breakfast with my kids I thought to myself, What would be the perfect way to cut some of this sugary strawberry flavour, when it donned on me: mix Franken Berry with Count Chocula!

I have created a monster, Count Franken Chocoberry!

I actually don't think I can go back to just eating one of the cereals. I've experimented with different ratios and I think a 2/3s Count Chocula to 1/3 Franken Berry gives the best results. It curbs the incredible sweetness of the Franken Berry with the slight - and I emphasize slight - bitterness of the chocolate in Count Chocula.

So, it turns out this Halloween wasn't a bust for cereal! Or at least for me. I didn't manage to get anything new, but you have to work with you've got in getting the most out of the season.

Halloween is only a week away, folks! If it takes mixing together sugary kids' cereals, do what you've gotta do!

Hope you enjoyed,